Parenting is hard. Co-parenting can be evern harder. No couple expects to get divorced when they have a child together, so it's worthwhile taking some time to talk about the new challenges, obstacles and scenarios you may encounter together as separated parents. Here are five things to consider to make the job a little easier:
1. Think of the future. There are plenty of scenarious in which you will have to interact cordially: walking your daughter down the aisle at her wedding, attending your son's graduation or waiting outside the delivery room for your first grandchild. Strive to cultivate a healthy relationship now, so that you may interact in a way that is healthy, productive and comfortable in the future. Parenthood is forever. It transitions right into grandparenthood, even if you are divorced.
2. Take a break. Disagreements are normal when co-parenting. They're even normal when parenting as a couple! If you find yourself getting upset during a discussion, take a break. Say "I'm getting upset and I need to calm down. Let's stop for now and continue in the morning." Very often, when hot emotions have cooled, understanding and solutions emerge. If you try to find solutions while upset, things can escalate to an unhealthy level and harm your relationship further.
3. Take the high road. Try to take the high road without becoming a doormat. This requires a high level of discernment, maturity and patience. I call this divorce management. If you don’t have a handle on one or more of these qualities, recognize it and work on developing the skill. You can only control your own behavior.
4. Read books and articles about kids and divorce. Children experience divorce differently than their parents do; it has an entirely different context for children. The more you know, the better, so learn as much as you can. It will make a difference. Encourage your children to communicate with you and ask questions. Try to give honest answers.
5. Don’t make your children intermediaries. Divorce creates opportunities for misunderstandings. When kids talk about their experience with the "other" parent that upsets you, clarify with your ex and get the full context before jumping to conclusions. Children are filtering observations through their experience and may misinterpret what they see or hear. There may be a good explanation, and it's smart to check in with your partner.
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